Couples still hanging around golfs youngsters - COPIED

By Associated PressDecember 20, 2008, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. ' In an elite field at the Chevron World Challenge, which is loaded with players from the top 50 in the world ranking, Fred Couples can claim he belongs because of his age.
 
Hes still only 49.
 
The oldest player at Sherwood Country Club, whose world ranking has fallen to No. 175, the ageless Couples continues to hang around some guys half his age. Even with a mud-ball bogey on the final hole Friday, he had a 3-under 69 to finish three shots behind Jim Furyk and keep in the mix going into the weekend of Tiger Woods event.
 
I can hang around anybody, Couples said. Playing well is a shock.
 
Some might consider Furyks play to be surprising, given his lack of competition. Taking a break from his four-month vacation, Furyk wasnt nearly as crisp but didnt make any mistakes until the final hole on his way to a 71.
 
Furyk was at 5-under 139, two shots clear of Anthony Kim (70), Camilo Villegas (67) and K.J. Choi (71). Couples and Steve Stricker (71) were another shot behind.
 
I hung in there today, Furyk said. Thats the best I can say.
 
Couples has been doing that longer than most. He was a PGA Tour rookie the year before Villegas was born, and he won the first of his 15 tour titles two years before Kim showed up on earth.
 
Couples was No. 1 in the world until his career was slowed dramatically by back problems, and it got so bad last year that he managed to play only three times. Through it all, his raw talent has kept him in the picture.
 
Even playing only 18 times this year, he nearly made $1 million and easily kept his card.
 
I wouldnt consider myself to be a threat too much anymore, Couples said. But I know I can go around this course because of old habit, and Ive played here and I like the course. So that certainly helps me.
 
If there is such a thing as pressure in the silly season, this is it.
 
Woods lobbied to get official world ranking points for his Chevron World Challenge, but he had to make concessions. Starting next year, the sponsor exemptions must be ranked inside the top 50.
 
Ive played so many times on a sponsors exemption, and Tiger came up the other day and he said, Ive got to tell you something, Couples said. I go, Oh my God, what did I do wrong? He said, You cannot play my tournament next year unless youre in the top 50.
 
What am I, 400th right now?
 
With Couples, its never as bad as it seems it should be.
 
He zipped along still soggy Sherwood with an approach to a foot on the fourth, a two-putt birdie on the fifth, a 5-foot birdie on the difficult ninth hole and was climbing the leaderboard until he found a splotch of mud on his ball at the 18th. It squirted to the right, losing velocity along the way, and he was lucky to escape with bogey.
 
For all the free money being handed out this week from the $5.75 million purse, there was still some grumbling.
 
Villegas got into an animated discussion with a rules official Thursday after getting mud on his ball, and he still coped with it Friday even as he fired off three straight birdies, lost his momentum, then put it back in gear with an approach to 8 feet for an eagle on the par-5 11th. He wound up with the lowest score this week, but was still perplexed by the decision to play the ball down.
 
I dont really get what were trying to prove here, Villegas said. I mean, its 16 guys, the end of the year. Its a fun tournament. Youre trying to show them some good shots, some birdies, and sometimes they dont understand when we hit it 50, 60 yards off target. And its just because of the mud.
 
So what was the difference between a 74 and a 67?
 
I was able to judge a little bit better, he said.
 
The good news for Furyk is that he finally made a birdie on a par 5' Sherwood has five of them. It came on the 16th hole, which he reached in two and lagged nicely to tap-in range to reach 6 under.
 
It only took me 10 tries, he said.
 
His lone bogey came with a pulled 5-iron into a bunker, leaving him a lot of green but a long distance away. He blasted out to a ridge that fed the ball 10 feet by the hole, but he missed the par putt.
 
The only complaint Couples has had this week was getting tested for drugs for the first time this year. He was notified after his round Thursday, and having relieved himself on the 14th hole, it took him two hours to complete the test.
 
I told him I thought at that age it wasnt an issue, Furyk said. But I guess it was.
 

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  • Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

    The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

    Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

    What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

    Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

    Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

    Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

    Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

    Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

    He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

    Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

    Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

    Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

    Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

    "I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

    The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

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    "I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

    McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

    When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

    Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

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    While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

    Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.